Is Natalie Zea Leaving ‘Justified’?

An executive producer hints at a major death to come in 'Justified,' but Winona Hawkins may not be the victim.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

On the most recent episode of "Justified," the villainous Robert Quarles targeted the hapless Gary Hawkins (William Ragsdale) as part of his first strike against U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant). And if Quarles knows about Gary, how long will it take before he comes after Raylan's estranged lover (and ex-wife to both Gary and Raylan), Winona Hawkins (Natalie Zea)?

Earlier this week, Deadline reported that Natalie Zea has landed a role on the currently untitled Kevin Williamson serial killer drama pilot on Fox; which fueled speculation that Zea is leaving "Justified" after the third season.

In the Williamson project, Zea will portray Claire Matthews, the ex-wife of a serial killer named Joe Carroll (James Purefoy); who has created a cult of serial killers to act in his name. Kevin Bacon will headline that pilot as former FBI agent Ryan Hardy; who is recruited to track down Carroll.

Entertainment Weekly also added some heat to the rumors of Zea's departure when "Justified" executive producer Graham Yost confirmed that a major character will be killed off as the third season comes to a close.

“[The death] provides an engine for Raylan to get the bad guy," said Yost.That becomes the drive for the last episode. The last episode is get Quarles. I’ll tell you that. How that plays out with Quarles, and Raylan, and Limehouse, and Boyd, and Arlo — that’s our season.” 

Combined, all of that information makes Winona's fate seem fairly ominous. However, there are also reasons to believe that Winona will survive. For starters, Zea appeared on the "Person of Interest" pilot last fall without leaving "Justified" behind. And if the Kevin Williamson project on Fox goes to series, it will only have 15 episodes per year, courtesy of a special contract arrangement with Bacon. That would potentially allow Zea to appear in both series simultaneously, even if her role on "Justified" was greatly reduced.

But the biggest hopeful note comes from Yost himself, in an earlier interview with Entertainment Weekly. At the time, Yost assured fans that Winona's pregnancy would not be terminated. “We talked about it," said Yost. "But we quickly made the decision that we don’t want to get into that territory…. We’re not gonna put a gun to her belly, and we’re not gonna have her in a car accident or anything like that.”

What do you think will happen to Winona and Raylan this season on "Justified"? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!